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MEDVL 1101: Details in Dress: Reading Clothing in Medieval Literature (Spring 2024)

a guide to library research

Research Strategies - Tips for efficient and effective searching

Start with what you know.

  • Course readings, authors, book and article titles, key words, etc.
  • Start with simple and general search terms, then add complexity, focus, and specifics.

Test your topic.

  • Library homepage -
  • Library Catalogs
  • Google
  • Gale Virtual Reference, Reference Universe, Sage Reference Online -- Search for online subject specific encyclopedia articles (background information) on your topic.
  • Research is re-searching.  If you don't find what you want initially, try other keyword combinations for better search results.

Search for scholarly journal articles to develop and support your thesis statement.

  • Library Catalog
  • Articles search on Library home page -- New Summon search engine.
  • General, multidisciplinary databases -- ProQuest Research Library, Academic Search Premier
  • Specific subject databases -- Use the Database search on the Library home page to find databases for your topic.

Exploit bibliographies to find additional information sources on your topic.  Look for these lists of recommended resources in:

  • Wikipedia
  • Web sites
  • Encyclopedia articles
  • Journal articles
  • Books and book chapters
  • Library Guides

Do you need primary sources for your research?

  • Letters, correspondence, diaries, notebooks, autobiographical materials, etc.
  • Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in Kroch Library

Dare to explore analog options.  Not all information is digital.  Especially historic information.

  • Print encyclopedias and books
  • Borrow Direct and other Requests
  • Print indexes and journals
  • Microfilm

Evaluate and critically assess your information sources.

  • Who created this information?
  • Is the information authoritative, accurate, objective, up-to-date, and scholarly?

Be aware of copyrights and the ethical use of information

  • Copyright Information Center

Know when to ask for help.

  • Ask a Librarian

See also: Introduction to Research

Research is a Process

Diagram of the research process

The Research Process Explained

Academic research is a process that takes time. But don't be overwhelmed. Follow these steps and use the research tools (databases, library catalog, etc.) listed on this class guide to find relevant academic sources for your paper or project.

  • Choose and Develop a Research Topic
    Whether you have been assigned a topic or have chosen your own, you will need to narrow your topic to a research question or position.
  • Explore your Topic
    Use Subject Encyclopedias and other background sources written by experts to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower and related issues. Encyclopedias provide disciplinary perspectives on a topic and often bibliographies of primary and/or secondary sources. If you're having trouble finding a good background source, ask for help from a librarian.
  • Narrow to Research Question
    Define your topic as a focused research question.
    Find Sources
    Go beyond Google. Use the Library Catalog and Databases to find sources (books, articles, media, etc.) for your research topic.
  • Select Relevant Sources (Evaluate)
    Think critically. Use criteria (purpose, authority, reliability, currency, and coverage) to evaluate search results.

Questions? Ask a Librarian